Tag Archives: Analects of Confucius Book 6

Leadership lessons from Confucius: divine intervention

divine intervention

子見南子,子路不說。夫子矢之曰:「予所否者,天厭之!天厭之!」
Confucius went to see Nanzi (the consort of Duke Ling of Wei). Zilu was not happy. Confucius swore: “If I have done wrong, may heaven punish me! May heaven punish me!”

No matter how honorable your intentions are, it’s inevitable that there will come a time when someone views your words or actions in a less than favorable light. This can be particularly hurtful when your motives are questioned by a friend as close as Zilu was to Confucius. No wonder he begs heaven to punish him if he has erred! Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: divine intervention

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a creative ritual

creative ritual

子曰:「君子博學於文,約之以禮,亦可以弗畔矣夫!」
Confucius said: “A leader who expands their learning through culture and keeps their behavior in check through ritual is unlikely to go wrong.” (1)

Creativity doesn’t happen by accident. It requires cultural fuel to spark it. Creativity doesn’t happen by accident either. Even a writer bashing out their novel alone needs a well of cultural inspiration to draw from to build the plot, describe the settings, and mold the characters. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a creative ritual

Leadership lessons from Confucius: say what you mean

say what you mean

子曰:「觚不觚,觚哉!觚哉!」
Confucius said: “A cornered chalice without any corners. How can that be called a cornered chalice? How can that be called a cornered chalice?” (1)

Say what you mean. Mean what you say. If you’re running a political polling company dedicate your efforts on finding out what people are really thinking rather than attempting to dictate what they should think by massaging the results to support a pre-determined narrative. Quite apart from the moral issues at stake, why sacrifice your long-term credibility for short-term fame? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: say what you mean

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the good old days

good old days

子曰:「齊一變,至於魯;魯一變,至於道。」
Confucius said: “With a single reform, the state of Qi could reach the level of the state of Lu; with a single reform, the state of Lu could reach the way.”

There’s no going back to the good old days! They were never that great anyway. They just look better from a distance using the rose-tinted glasses that nostalgia gives you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the good old days

Leadership lessons from Confucius: mountains and water

mountains and water

子曰:「知者樂水,仁者樂山。知者動,仁者靜。知者樂,仁者壽。」
Confucius said: “The wise love water, the good love mountains. The wise are active, the good are tranquil. The wise are joyful, the good enjoy long life.” (1) (2)

Wisdom and goodness are not mutually exclusive: just as mountains and water come together to form a perfect whole, so too is the human experience enhanced by the fusion of conflicting qualities and impulses. The sum is indeed greater than the parts. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: mountains and water

Leadership lessons from Confucius: wisdom and goodness

wisdom and goodness

樊遲問知。子曰:「務民之義,敬鬼神而遠之,可謂知矣。」問仁。曰:「仁者先難而後獲,可謂仁矣。
Fan Chi asked about wisdom. Confucius said: “Do what is right for the common people; respect the spirits and gods but keep them at a distance. This is wisdom.” Fan Chi asked about goodness. Confucius said: “A good man is first in line to confront difficulties and last in line to collect rewards. This is goodness.” (1) (2)

Wisdom isn’t an abstract concept. It means figuring out what needs be done and then going ahead and doing it. It requires that you use your knowledge and insight for the benefit of everyone – not just on behalf of a select few of friends and associates. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: wisdom and goodness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a delicate balancing act

delicate balancing act

子曰:「中人以上,可以語上也;中人以下,不可以語上也。」
Confucius said: “You can discuss advanced topics with people of above-average intelligence; but it’s pointless to discuss them with people of below-average intelligence.”

Teaching a class of thirty students is a delicate balancing act. Pitch a subject too high and you risk leaving most of them behind. Pitch a subject too low and you risk boring a similar number of them out of their minds. It’s next-to-impossible to get your lesson just right. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a delicate balancing act

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: stuck in a rut?

stuck in a rut?

子曰:「知之者不如好之者,好之者不如樂之者。」
Confucius said: “Those who know the way are not the equal of those who love it; those who love the way are not the equal of those who take joy in it.” (1)

Whatever path you decide to take in life, you won’t get very far if you simply go through the motions as you make your way along it. If you can’t muster any passion for what you’re doing, then take some time to think about what you really want to do with your time on this planet. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: stuck in a rut?

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a higher purpose?

higher purpose

子曰:「人之生也直,罔之生也幸而免。」
Confucius said: “If you take the right path, you’ll enjoy a happy life. If you deviate from it, the only way that you’ll enjoy a happy life will be out of sheer luck.”

What would life be like without a higher purpose than mere survival? A lot simpler in many ways given that all you would have to worry about would be finding something to eat and some shelter at night. Except of course, you would be subject to the whims of nature in all its savagery and beauty. Indeed, instead of being able to decide where to go and what to eat, you’d be forced to follow the seasonal migration patterns to escape the extreme weather and keep your stomach full on whatever food was available. In short, life wouldn’t be quite so much fun as those who urge us to return to the land that we came from would have us imagine. And probably a lot shorter and more brutal as well. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a higher purpose?

Leadership lessons from Confucius: native substance and cultural refinement

natural substance

子曰:「質勝文則野,文勝質則史。文質彬彬,然後君子。」
Confucius said: “When native substance wins out over cultural refinement, you get the coarseness of a peasant; when cultural refinement wins out over natural substance, you get the pedantry of a clerk. Only when native substance and cultural refinement are in balance do you get a leader.”

There’s no doubt that weight-training is great for making you healthier. A regular program enables you to build up both physical and mental strength through exercise and discipline and can provide a platform for achieving more than you imagined possible in your personal and professional life. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: native substance and cultural refinement